Mary Jo Featured on Apologetics Academy Webinar

Mary Jo recently had the privilege of being a featured guest on Jonathan McLatchie’s Apologetics Academy webinar.

She discussed Conversational Apologetics, which focuses on four elements of good dialogue; including how to use common questions to uncover what people really believe and to spark a deeper discussion on belief in God.

Check out the two-hour long webinar below and let us know your thoughts!


Is It Okay to Question Beliefs?

Part Two

Missed part one? Read it here

Over the years, I have talked with a number of people who have been told in response to their questioning about God, “You just don’t have enough faith,” or “You just need to read your Bible.” Some were given such a response in their childhood years; others, in their teenage to young adult years. In every situation described, the result was damaging to the person’s belief in God. I don’t know the mind of the responder, nor the reason why such a response would be given. However, I can say that Christians should thoughtfully engage with questions about doubt.

In Paul Copan’s book, “A Little Book for New Philosophers,” he cites several reasons as to why we should engage. Let’s look at a couple more reasons to add to the previous post.

3. The Christian faith offers ample resources and evidence to assist us.

The Christian faith has a two-fold approach in assisting us with answering our doubts. As Copan states, “When God enters our lives, we have the Spirit’s internal confirmation that we are children of God, that we have been accepted before him through Christ and that we can thus approach him with confidence (Rom 8: 14-16; Gal 4: 5-6; Heb 4: 16; 1 Jn 5: 13).”[1]

The internal confirmation relates to the personal and individual salvific experience of God. There is truth we learn through the experience of forgiveness of guilt and relief from shame, as well as from understanding that we have ultimate significance—that not only did God create us, but that he valued his creation as “good” and then gave himself as a sacrifice to reaffirm and redeem the goodness of his creation. However, internal confirmation is not the whole story. There are also external supports for the existence of God such as the historical reliability of the Scriptures, the evidence of the resurrection, the existence of objective moral values, presence of design in the universe, and many more. These two types of support work in concert to assist us in answering our doubt.

While we will not get exhaustive answers, we can begin to get answers. It’s been troubling me that many of the people who talk with me about doubt haven’t tried answering any of their doubts, though these folks have had the same questions or wonderings for years. The doubts don’t just go away on their own, we have to be responsible to use the gift of learning with which God has endowed his creation to seek answers. One of my favorite quotes from Dallas Willard is, “If you’re going to be a doubter, you need to believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts as well as to doubt your beliefs and believe your doubts.”[2] We need to be responsible with our doubts and our beliefs.

4. Fourth, we should reject the false and pernicious idea that knowledge requires 100 percent certainty.

This reason for engaging with doubts has been an idea on which I have been chewing for some years. The belief that one must have 100 percent certainty to have knowledge about a thing seems to be problematic for both those who believe in God and those who do not believe. I’ve heard Christians say things like, “I have no doubt in God. I will not be shaken. I cannot be moved.” While I believe the intention of such statements is from a desire to be obedient to God and trust Him, I think it may send an unrealistic message to others (and to ourselves) about faith. Faith in God doesn’t mean you will never have that trust shaken. I’ve had mine rocked to the core. Faith in God doesn’t mean that there are no more questions to ask. Rather, faith should mean that the questions have begun. After all, God is an infinite being and we are finite beings; this fact alone means there are things about God and the universe He created that we will never know. Yet, there are so many things that we can learn about our reality. When we first place our trust in God, we are beginning the life-long journey of learning the deep things of God.

I also mentioned that this desire for certainty was a problem for those who don’t believe in God. Atheism does not imbue the human being with any more intellectual power to gain certainty of knowledge than does any other worldview. While some people may argue to the contrary, this idea seems to be a misunderstanding of human nature; specifically with regard to our individual abilities in learning. The ability to gain knowledge through different modes of reasoning is not specific to any worldview. Rather, the ability is a human trait. Ultimately, the same problem arises for the atheist as for the Christian in that the universe is vast and we know so little about it, even with all of our current knowledge. The more knowledge we gain, the less ground we understand we have covered in our endeavors (Socrates was famous for stating this understanding of the world). One gain against nature unlocks several more mysteries.

As Copan states, to say that we need 100 percent certainty in order to say we have acquired knowledge is a statement that cannot live up to its own standard. How did we gain the knowledge with 100 percent certainty that we need this level of certainty in order to have acquired knowledge? It is an unattainable goal. Knowledge does not require 100 percent human certainty…not in atheism, and not in Christianity.

What should we do instead?

5. Those engaging in doubt should doubt fairly.

We’ll look over this next reason why Christians should engage with doubts in the next post on questioning.

For further reading, pick up a copy of Copan’s short book, “A Little Book for New Philosophers,” here.

[1] Copan, Paul (2016-11-19). A Little Book for New Philosophers: Why and How to Study Philosophy (Little Books) (Kindle Locations 1143-1144). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] From Dallas Willard, The Allure of Gentleness, as quoted by Copan, Paul (2016-11-19). A Little Book for New Philosophers: Why and How to Study Philosophy (Little Books) (Kindle Locations 1086-1087). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Is It Okay to Question Beliefs?

Part One

Over the years, I have talked with a number of people who have been told in response to their questioning about God, “You just don’t have enough faith,” or “You just need to read your Bible.” Some were given such a response in their childhood years; others, in their teenage to young adult years. In every situation described, the result was damaging to the person’s belief in God. I don’t know the mind of the responder, nor the reason why such a response would be given. However, I can say that Christians should thoughtfully engage with questions about doubt. 

In Paul Copan’s book, “A Little Book for New Philosophers,” he cites several reasons as to why we should engage. Let’s look at a couple reasons.

  1. Doubting is common to the human experience. 

God knows his creation. He is not caught off guard by our questioning, even of his own actions. Copan explains that there are instances of humans questioning God’s seeming silence on the issue of evil in the world (Psalm 13, 73). We even see humans questioning his harsh actions; for example, King David’s anger with God when God struck Uzzah dead for steadying the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:1-10). The Scriptures do not gloss over human doubt, nor treat it with contempt. In the Scriptures there is much “comfort, guidance and direction for doubting saints.”[1] As Jude 22 expresses, “Have mercy on those who doubt.”

  1. Doubts need to be processed, not suppressed.

“Insofar as we are able, doubts should be expressed, sorted out and addressed—and this should be done in Christian community.” Copan describes that we need “godly, thoughtful, and seasoned Christians—philosophers included—to assist us and help strengthen our trust in God along the way.”[2]

Ignoring our doubts, or just getting on with life—in hopes the doubts will work themselves out—can be damaging to our knowledge of God, and therefore to our trust of him. When we doubt God’s existence, we cannot reasonably trust him (Hebrews 11:6). I have found that doubts typically do not just go away. Rather, doubts tend to linger mysteriously in the human mind, affecting many aspects of our life in ways we may not overtly comprehend. So we need to bring our thoughts about God out into the open with those who can aptly and graciously engage those thoughts. 

Therefore, “yes,” it is okay to question beliefs. In reading through the Scriptures, in context, we see that God allows us to wrestle with him in our questioning and even invites us to reason with him. He wants us to use the gift of rationality that he has given to human beings. He is aware that gift will produce difficult questions.

We will look at two more reasons from Paul Copan’s book in our next Questioning blog post.

You can pick up a copy of Copan’s short book, “A Little Book for New Philosophers,” here.


[1] Paul Copan. A Little Book for New Philosophers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 105.

[2] Ibid., 106.

Mary Jo to be Featured on Iron Sharpens Iron Radio Program

Tomorrow (Thursday, April 13th, 2017) Mary Jo will be a guest on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program with Chris Arnzen. The show will be live from 4:00-6:00 p.m. EST.

The first hour she will be discussing her personal testimony of abandoning atheism and embracing Jesus Christ and His Gospel, and the second hour she will talk about apologetics in women’s ministry.

If you can’t tune in live, we will post the link to the program after it airs!

Consider Summit Ministries This Summer

Do current trends in society set your teeth on edge? Do you fear for the changes yet to come in the lifetime of your kids? Can I make a recommendation? If you have a 16-21 year old that you know and love, send them to Summit Ministries.

For over 50 years, thousands of families have trusted Summit. Graduates have gone on to be leaders in every facet of society. The Summit 12-day course (in CO, TN, & CA) prepares young adults to stand for truth and gives them opportunities to think deeply about subjects like gender issues, sanctity of life, biblical economics and more.

Now is the time to invest in preparing mature, thoughtful, and focused young leaders. I think Summit is key. That’s why I’m honored to be on their Board of Reference.

Find out more and register your young leader by 5pm MTN on March 31st to receive early-bird discount of $200 off.  Receive an additional $200 off their conferences in California and Tennessee!

Responding: When People Call You Judgmental

How do you respond when people call you judgmental?

I first ask, “What do you mean by that?” I want to discover how the person understands his or her own use of the term “judgmental.” I also want to know what they found to be a “judgmental” statement on my behalf.

In the logic course I teach at Houston Baptist University, our text is broken up into the three acts of the mind: understanding, judgment and reasoning. Notice the second act of the mind, judgment. A judgment is when we put two concepts in relation to one another. Typically a judgment is a declarative sentence. For example, “The professor’s 10:30 a.m. logic class is the class with the highest grade average of all the professor’s classes.” This declarative sentence has told the reader something about the professor’s 10:30 a.m. logic class. A judgment has been made in this statement. Does that make the author of the statement a judgmental person? No.

While a person may find my above example tedious, if not out right boring, it has immense value in today’s marketplace of ideas. Human beings are the kind of things that make judgments. We do it all the time. A judgment happens whenever we make a declarative statement. So in some sense, we are actually all judgmental people (which relates to one of the definitions of “judgmental”). Making judgments does not equal being judgmental…even when discussing a hot topic issue.

Mary Jo Sharp on Pearls of Wisdom

A few weeks ago, Mary Jo was privileged to be a guest on Katherine Barner’s radio program, Pearls of Wisdom. They discussed the importance of defending your faith.

Listen below and let us know what you think!

How C.S. Lewis Wrecked My American Christmas

I grew up dreaming of a white Christmas with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. Christmas was about red, green and white. It was about lights on houses, displays in stores and snowy weather. Christmas was a time of stressful hurrying about to make the desserts, see the family, give to charity, wrap up school work, find the perfect presents and watch that newest movie on which I waited all year. It was about parties and friends and church musicals. Oh…and it was also about Jesus. As the slogan reminds me, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Of course “Jesus is the reason,” but there were also so many expectations this time of year. Specifically, and prominently, there were my expectations of the holidays. All of these things seem to stem from traditions to which I have clung from childhood to the present. I wanted to feel a certain way, and I was going to pursue that feeling at all costs.

Yet something unexpected happened this holiday season. I finished reading The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis and his writing interrupted my entire holiday mindset. What did he do? Let me share three ways Lewis wrecked my American Christmas.

1) Lewis made me aware that what I thought I had to do, or had to have, during the holidays was all a pretense; traditions taking the place of real contentment and joy.

Traditions, in of themselves, are not inherently bad, but I hadn’t realized how much I was clinging to American Christmas ideology and visions for my happiness[1] at this time of year. All of these traditions should serve as signposts pointing toward the source of the traditions. Instead, the signposts have been replacing the source of joy. Lewis’ writing helped me to reflect upon my abuse of the traditions in the place of the source. He helped me to understand my humanity in a fallen world. From what or whom, exactly, do humans derive their contentedness? Where can I find real joy? Would I even recognize real joy? Even the human vision of what is beautiful and good has become distorted. Christmas should be a reminder of the pure goodness, beauty and joy found in the nature of God; a momentary vision of restoration.

2) Lewis made me long for an advent that was deeper and more mysterious than my wish to have family, quiet and the perfect gifts.

Every year, I seem to slam into the holidays with my head spinning. I rarely get a moment to process the meaning of Christmas, of the Incarnation of God. This time of year is the time to pull back the curtain of American culture—the heavy veil of individualistic desire—and to gaze upon the real story, salvation history. What was God doing so many years ago? Why did He send the second person of the Trinity as incarnate on earth? How does this act make a difference in my life? Where do I fit into the story of God’s redemption on earth? What does His gift mean for those around me? These are the questions of the Christmas mystery. God gave us the perfect gift of Himself, in a way that we didn’t expect. Nothing else I can procure or produce at Christmastime comes close to the vision of God’s act of beauty and goodness: His gift of peace on earth and His goodwill towards men.

3) Lewis gave me a sense of longing for another world of which I’ve never felt before. Everything else fades before the desire welling up in me for the goodness of His presence.

While I won’t trash all my American Christmas traditions, I will definitely enter into the season with a bit more caution for how I view and participate in those traditions. If I must have anything other than the beauty and wonder of the Lord Jesus in order to fulfill my heart at this time of year (that pumpkin spice latte, family gathering, or pristinely decorated tree), I have made that thing an idol; no matter how innocuous the thing appears.

So perhaps Lewis didn’t wreck my American Christmas but rather salvaged it by reminding me of the source of joy. Therefore, I’ll sing those holiday songs, decorate with red, white, and green, grab that perfect gift for someone I love…and do all things as a reflection of the goodness of God’s redemptive act in human history. Let the love that God has for you affect all those around you. Be reminded that God came into darkness as glorious light. He broke into our kingdom with his own kingdom. This season we celebrate the goodness of God. We celebrate His love of the creation.

[1] Not to mention the problem of seeking happiness, which itself comes with so much cultural baggage.

2016 Confident Christianity Ministry Recap

As 2016 comes to a close, we’re reflecting on all the ministry opportunities Confident Christianity had this year.

We began the year with Mary Jo teaching a logic fast term class at Houston Baptist University. It was in that class that one of her students came up to her after the first day and said thank you for talking with him about his Islamic faith and his view of God. He had left Islam and become a Christian. He said he was now attending a local church.

MJ then took two trips out to California. One of those trips was for a conference sponsored by the Christian Apologetics Ministry, Reasons to Believe. At the conference, there was a wide array of apologetics topics from how to have good conversation to science and faith to MJ’s topic on the problem of evil.

In March, MJ and Roger went up to Canada for the “Faith Beyond Belief” conference. MJ spoke at the conference, at a Bible college, at a private Christian school, and on a Canadian television program.

Throughout the spring, CC was ministering in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. In the summer, MJ took two trips out to Colorado for Summit Ministries Worldview Camps and for a newer apologetics event in Manitou Springs called “Every Thought Captive.” At this event, she met a Sufi Muslim who came to hear her speak on Islam! She was also able to do some speaking in Sunday School classes at her home church on the subject of Islam.

When fall rolled around, MJ and Roger went back up to Canada for an event with Ravi Zacharias and Andy Bannister. The three apologists spoke in Vancouver and Victoria, with Andy and MJ speaking in Comox, as well. We had great turn-outs for each event and fielded a lot of one-on-one questions. We also had a special event to minister to local pastors in the Victoria area (Andy Bannister spoke). It was a special time of encouraging one another in ministry.

As the year wrapped up, MJ spoke in California once again, Georgia, and Nashville at the LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum. She also attended the Evangelical Theological Society conference finishing her three-year stint as the first woman to serve on the Executive Committee of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (an organization established in 1974). MJ has also been teaching an online course with Houston Baptist University which will end in mid-December.

There are so many good things going on with Confident Christianity! We are planning much more for 2017 so stay tuned. If you’d like to invite Mary Jo to speak at an event, click here.